In his famous TED talk “Plutocrats, Pitchforks are coming”, the venture capitalist Nick Hanauer says “Capitalism awards problem solvers. That’s why the system works”. The system incentivizes creating solutions to a society’s problems. Why not approach the developing countries with the same view point.
There’s no reason to believe problem solving in the developing countries doesn’t follow the same principle. The challenges these countries currently face are not different from challenges more developed economies once faced in the past. The services and commodities we now are enjoying in developed countries were not always around. They were created by problem solvers. Similarly, moving developing countries forward will largely depend on problem solvers.
Focus needs to be on potential financial incentives solving the third-world problems offers. Not the problems. We need to start looking at the glass as being half full, rather than half empty. According to a report released by the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 2014, between 2006 and 2011, the average rate of return on foreign direct investment in challenged economies was as high as 14.5%. That is more than two times the global average of 6.2%.
Entrepreneurs who adapt to the developing world
It would be inaccurate to say starting a business in a developing country is without challenges. Due to lack of infrastructure, an entrepreneur in a developing country has to be creative to be successful. The founder of Irokotv in Nigeria, Jason Njoku, said when he started the company, he quickly realized that he had to adapt to the way of doing business in Nigeria to be successful. It estimates that Irokotv is now worth north of $30 million.
Those ahead of the curve
About 6 years ago, a couple Haitian-Americans, while on a visit in Haiti, came to conclusion that eating fish in Haiti is somewhat a luxury. The local catch is expensive, and fish the average population can afford is usually imported from the Dominican Republic or other nearby countries. They decided to start Taino Aqua Ferme, an aquatic farm that raises hormoneless tilapia and sell on the local Haitian market. The farm now has an annual production of more than 300 tons.
According to surveys, of the annual graduates in Nigeria about 45 percent remain unemployed. The main reasons employers often reject graduates is for lack of professional skills; critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and decision-making. In October 2014, Chris Kwekowe, a 23 year old computer science graduate from Lagos, Nigeria turned down a high paying software engineer position at Microsoft to start Slatecube. The startup specializes in training and internship placement for Nigerian university graduates.
Slatecube offers virtual internships in courses ranging from corporate finance to anger management. Once a candidate completes a course in their chosen discipline, Slatecube pairs them with a company for a local or virtual internship. The company has worked with enterprises like Cisco, accounting firm Grant Thornton, Google and Forbes.
Time to adjust our view of the developing coutries
When I left Haiti in 2000, to make an international call, one had to go to what we then called a Teleko (a government-owned communication center) near by, wait in line until it was your turn to use the booth to make the call. But now people can call their loved ones living overseas while plotting their lands in different corners in the country.
People are running multi-million dollar businesses from their laptop while traveling from one place to the next. Technology is developing and changing our cultures at rates we can barely keep up with.
The world has gotten much smaller and more connected than ever before. It’s time to re-evaluate our view of the underdeveloped economies.